A Core Gifts Training Retreat
Recently, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) hosted a two-day training session for the community builders of the seven GCDD Real Communities to teach the concept of identifying an individual's core gifts. The training was led by Bruce Anderson from Community Activators in Washington, which specializes in providing innovative training and organizational coaching for helping professionals, educators and community activists. Anderson outlined the process of identifying each person's core gift and how it can bring a sense of strength and value to each individual in the community.
The concept of core gifts is especially beneficial for people who are often marginalized in their community and don't think they have any gifts or have anything to offer to the community. GCDD felt that this training would be a useful tool for each community builder to learn and apply within their own communities to help those with developmental disabilities have a sense of self-worth and participation in the community. After the training, one of GCDD's Real Communities, the Korean Coalition, has already taken steps to share what they learned and introduced the core gifts process to their entire group.
Initiating an Inclusive Youth Consortium
GCDD and the Korean Coalition Real Communities Initiative are in the process of developing an inclusive youth consortium that will focus on bringing together youth-serving programs for kids both with and without disabilities. The idea of forming an inclusive youth consortium stemmed from a GCDD learning journey to Kalamazoo, MI in November 2011, which focused on creating a culture of inclusion for all young people and youth programs. Currently, there are several Korean churches in the metro Atlanta area that have separate youth groups for kids with and without disabilities. GCDD and the Korean Coalition are joining forces to apply the knowledge they learned in Kalamazoo about supporting youth community organizations in embracing inclusion.
The process is already underway, and the first meeting was held in May, where Partnerships for Success, a youth-serving organization, shared their experiences of bringing kids with and without disabilities together. The next meeting took place in June and featured guests from the Arcadia Institute, who hosted the GCDD learning journey in Kalamazoo, and shared their knowledge on the role youth organizations can play in creating a welcoming community for all. Although the youth consortium is still in the initial phases, GCDD and the Korean Coalition are encouraging all who serve youth to come learn and share at the meetings to build a collective culture of inclusion.
Embarking on a Learning Journey to Detroit
GCDD and members of the Real Communities projects in Savannah and Clarkston embarked on a learning journey in May to Detroit, MI to reflect on the innovative use of food happening there. Both the Savannah and Clarkston projects are using food as starting points for community building and Detroit has established several new techniques, which the Real Communities projects plan to bring back and integrate into their communities.
The learning journey was led by Caitlin Childs, the organizing director of the GCDD Real Communities Initiative, and the group met with several organizations that were working on a local level to transform their communities and neighborhoods through innovative food techniques. Much like the work being explored in Savannah and Clarkston, the learning journey allowed the group to see how Detroit was using community gardening and urban agriculture as a way to not only give people access to fresh, healthy, local food and create economic opportunities, but also as a starting place for community building and engaging folks who have traditionally been dismissed or marginalized in the community.
Introducing the Youth Roving Listening Program
After attending a GCDD Real Communities learning journey to Indianapolis, IN last October, Centenary United Methodist Church of Macon is taking what they learned and adapting their own model of a roving listening program, a method of beginning deep, meaningful conversations with people in the community to allow those with and without disabilities to interact with each other. The core idea of the project is to go out in the community to look for and understand each person's gifts, as well make them see themselves as having gifts to share rather than deficits.
The church receives a lot of financial assistance requests, but instead of solely doing direct charity, they believe that initiating this program will be a catalyst for how people in the community can help make change by volunteering their gifts and skills.
The project will take place in the Beall's neighborhood in Macon, GA and will launch on July 2. It will involve five people with disabilities, three youth and two adults, who will go out in the community each day to speak with community members about the personal gifts they can share with the rest of the community. At the end of each day, the roving listeners will return and discuss ideas learned and collect contacts to start a "gift economy" and how members of the community can share their gifts with everyone.
Although the roving listening program is being launched as an intensive one-month project, the church is hoping to keep the project going and continue listening meetings
once a month.
Sparking Conversations in Milton
One of GCDD's Real Communities, the Better Together Milton Initiative, met on May 11 at a local community center in Macon, GA to host a neighborhood get-together known as the Milton Living Room Conversation, where local residents meet in an informal setting in their community. The meet-up, which was the first of what they hope will be many, was a success with over 55 people from all over the Milton area in attendance.
Better Together's mission is to find ways to make everyone in the community feel more welcomed and involved, particularly people with disabilities because in a true community everyone who lives there should feel at home. The first living room conversation focused on getting to know your neighbors better and brainstorming ideas to take steps to do this. The GCDD Real Communities project plans to use these all-inclusive conversations as a way to make Milton an even friendlier and more welcoming community and is planning to turn the neighborhood conversations into an ongoing series to bring about positive community changes.